How early is too early for school lunch?

(Felicia Allyn/WCIV)

By Stefanie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Ask most kids what they like most about school and they will likely say lunch and recess.

But these days, kids across the Lowcountry are eating lunch at school earlier - much earlier -{} due to overcrowding.

West Ashley mom Jill Hiers says she makes extra time to give her kids get a good breakfast, especially for her growing son, Garrett.

Garrett, 5, is in kindergarten at Drayton Hall Elementary. He sits down for breakfast with his big sister Caroline at 7:30 a.m. and eats his lunch with his class just three hours later.

"I'll pack a lunch of sandwich and fruit and it will come back and he'll just have eaten the sandwich because he is not hungry three hours later so that's difficult, too, when you know you've packed a well-balanced meal and you know he's eaten only a couple things out of there," Hiers said.

To top it off, Garrett and his classmates only get 20 minutes to eat-- and his mother says that just isn't enough time for little ones.

"I know it was early and I was hoping that it would be enough to carry him through, but in 20 minutes it's very difficult to get your lunch in," Hiers said. "Some of them still have difficulty opening the milk carton or getting the straw in the juice box."

So why the early and fast lunches? Hiers says it has to do with the school's overcrowding problems.

And turns out she's right.

Principal John Cobb is in charge of Drayton Hall Elementary's school-day planning and scheduling for 878 students.

"Ideally, if we could have like 11 to 12:30 lunch that would be great but you're looking at space and the amount of kids that we have," Cobb said. "For us and our building at the capacity - we are overcrowded in that sense, but the district is doing what they can with the facility that we have."

Pediatrician Coleen Bolyston of Sweetgrass Pediatrics says parents shouldn't be worried about early lunch times.

"10:30 lunch time not a big deal. Especially when a lot of children are eating breakfast at 6 in the morning," Dr. Bolyston said.

She says it's all about spacing between meals, not about early lunch times, kids know to eat when they're hungry.

"Children are growing and they are starving a lot so it's important to give them those calories every three to four hours, but they don't need to over-indulge when they come home from school," she said. "A nice, healthy snack and then dinner two to three hours after that is perfect."